A Brief History of R & B
R & B is a general term used to describe the pop music of black America. R & B dates back to around 1930, and it is still being performed today. In addition to the obvious influence of the blues, early R & B contained elements of gospel and folk. It also culled from the syncopated rhythms of jazz.
What does the term
R & B is a catchall phrase used by record companies to label popular music by black artists. Since the 1960s, subgenres of R & B have become more prevalent as record companies seek to market musical styles like brand names. One such brand name is contemporary R & B. This style of music differs greatly from the music Jerry Wexler wrote about in the 1940s.
Although it's hard to pinpoint R & B's humble beginnings, it emerged after the blues migrated north. This occurred after both world wars. R & B's predecessors, or arguably its earliest practitioners, were urban jump-blues stylists Louis Jordan, Big Joe Turner, and others. In the 1950s, black musicians of various backgrounds found success under the R & B umbrella. Early luminaries included Ruth Brown, Bobby Bland, and the so-called father of R & B, Ray Charles. In reality, Ray Charles was hardly the originator of R & B. However, he was R & B's most visible figure in the 1950s and 1960s.
It's not always easy to tell the difference between R & B and its stylistic cousins, forerunners, and offshoots. For example, Ray Charles made forays into jazz, country and western, and mainstream pop. Dinah Washington was a distinguished jazz singer and R & B artist. Hank Ballard (composer of the song “The Twist”) was arguably an early rock-and-roll singer. When you listen to these and other R & B artists, you will hear a potpourri of musical styles. Despite this, traditional R & B usually contains the following elements:
Bluesy melodies and improvisation
Passionate, preacher-like vocal performances
Use of a backbeat (snare drum strikes on beats two and four)
Tightly synchronized bass and drums (On bass, early patterns were four-beat walking lines. Later, eighth-note grooves and syncopated sixteenth-note patterns were employed. The drummer typically mimicked bass patterns on his kick drum.)
Timbral variety (You might hear a smooth-toned singer followed by a growling saxophone.)
The use of a twelve-bar blues form (not an ironclad rule)